polo assassin Granville’s James Store shifting exclusively to online sales
Samantha Smith stands with her daughter Sabrina, 15, in the James Store. Smith who has been running the store with her mother (Cecilia, not pictured) for the past 10 years. Smith recently sold the business which will move to being an online only store.(Photo: Jessica Phelps/The Advocate)Buy PhotoSamantha Smith, the fourth owner of the James Store since its 1946 founding, said she and her partner (and mother) Cecelia Smith recently sold the store to a married couple from Columbus who will continue the James tradition in e commerce form.
In the meantime, the store’s current retail incarnation at 221 E. Broadway will remain open through January and sometime into February, offering “big discounts” as Smith works to sell out in store items.
“We bought the business about 10 years ago, and have been three years here (the present location),” Smith said on Jan. 3. She was working in the store last Wednesday with her daughter, Sabrina, 15, who was just five years old when the James Store became the family business.
“The kids pretty much grew up here in the store,” Smith said.
At the time of the purchase, the Smiths bought not only the James Store business, but its then home building, located between Aladdin Restaurant and The Pub on Broadway.
“It was more of a women’s boutique then, and also for kids,” Smith remembered. “We kept it that way for a while. It was very old school. There was no email and only a mailing list, so we built an email list from scratch and started into e commerce 10 years ago.”
About seven years ago, she said she and her mother made the decision it would be better not to be operating out of an older building and to put the former site up for sale. She said she expected it might take a couple of years to find a buyer for the building.
“We had no idea our neighbor (The Pub) really wanted the space “and we sold it in a month.”
Smith said the business also moved from seven days operation “a stressor on its own,” she said to three days a week at its smaller, present location between the library and Robbins Hunter Museum.
“We continued Monday Friday on the web,” which continued to build its own distinct,
online clientele for The James Store, she said.
When her mother decided it was time to retire, Smith said she began to think about selling the business.
As the Grooms focus on the online aspect of the business, Smith will continue to run the shop at 211 E. Broadway until its current, seasonal in stock goods are gone.
She said most of the in store stock customers in Granville have been used to buying locally will also be available online.
“I understand the history of the store and that it not being here in Granville will be a disappointment for some people, but it’s also cool to have someone see the value in something we built,” Smith said. “We have built a pretty expansive customer base over 10 years.”
She continued, “It’s been really great to be a part of The James Store and its story I want to impress upon people it’s not going away.”
In terms of sharing some of the store’s long history, she said over the years she has often been asked how a store directed at women’s fashions came to carry the name “James.”
She said its founder was James Bones, who launched the enterprise as a men’s clothing store, “but didn’t want to call it ‘The Bones Store.'”
Smith added that following a recent announcement of the latest change in ownership on Facebook, former Granville residents (and continuing online customers) Tina and Dale Knobel reached out to remark on the sale.
“They said they’re sad to see it go, but glad it’s also going forward,” Smith said. She said they also remarked upon how Dale, former Denison University president, used to stop by the James Store to shop while he was a Denison student.
“There really is a lot of history,” Smith said.
Chuck Peterson, president of the Granville Historical Society Board of Managers, added, “The James Store is one of the longest lasting businesses in the history of downtown Granville, along with places such as Taylor Drug Store, Granville Electric and Hardware, Town and Gown, Aladdin Restaurant and Gregory Hardware.”
“In recent years the storefront at 124 E. Broadway was always attractive and had that mannequinout front with a new outfit on,
” Peterson added. It was one of those things that added to Granville’s classic small town setting.”